I love my home state of Texas. I am proud to have been born and raised in a diverse environment where I was taught to respect my neighbor’s individual beliefs and expect respect in return. It’s no secret that my home state has been taken over by an extreme wing of the Republican Party, and I am not proud of the results. Last night, the Supreme Court issued a short-term reprieve that allows abortion clinics to remain open while they decide whether or not take up the case of the draconian law HB2, intended to shut them down. But this temporary victory feels fragile in a state where so much damage has already been done. A 2011 study that predates the current law shuttering clinics showed that already 7 percent of women who need abortion care in the state have already tried to self-abort. Even without these remaining clinics being threatened with closure, it’s fair to say that my beloved home state is in the throes of an all-out public health crisis. As we work to rectify that devastating situation, we are faced with a new threat—what happens on November 4 could put all of America on the same path as Texas.
With Election Day bearing down on us, pundits and prognosticators are working overtime debating the question of the day: will the Democrats hold the Senate or will anti-choice Republicans get a majority in both chambers? Predictions vary by the day, but there are two things that most people agree on: this election will be a nail-biter, and women voters can make the difference in all of the key races.
One important fact is flying under the political radar: even if Democrats hold the Senate, we could still see the attacks on reproductive rights so prevalent in Texas and other states go national. Already in the Senate, we have a razor-thin margin when it comes to reliably defending access to abortion services in our country, and unlike years past, those votes are entirely on the Democratic side of the aisle. With pro-choice stalwarts like Iowa’s Tom Harkin and Michigan’s Carl Levin retiring, the chance that the clinic closures sweeping the South and more restrictions on abortion could become the norm in our country.
A national Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that seven in ten Americans support the constitutional rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade. Recently, my organization, NARAL Pro-Choice America, conducted another national poll and found that yet again, seven in ten Americans believe that women should have the legal right to access abortion. But this majority is startlingly underrepresented in Congress, where only four in ten elected officials share Americans’ pro-choice values. The Republicans who control the House have amply demonstrated that restricting a woman’s right to decide when and how she has a family is a top priority. Their counterparts in the Senate share these goals.
Decades ago, trusting women to make our personal decisions about family planning was a shared value that crossed party lines. After all, Republican Governor John Love was the first to sign legislation liberalizing abortion in Colorado several years before Roe v. Wade, followed shortly thereafter by Republican Governor Rockefeller in New York. Recognizing that reproductive freedom is central to individual autonomy and equality, the mainstream in both parties recognized access to abortion as a fundamental human right.